I first tasted this pasta dish at a trattoria and rosticeria in Marsciano, a small town close to our farmhouse that is much more famous for its roasted and grilled meats than it is for its pasta dishes. One taste though and it was love at first bite, and I’ve made this dish many times myself at home ever since. This dish epitomizes Umbrian country cooking at its best, and the hot spaghetti is dressed with a fresh, sweet tomato sauce that is then topped with peppery arugula and shaved cheese.
This is one of those dishes you only want to make when you have truly ripe, sweet tomatoes, so it is perfect in the summer when you have an abundance of fresh locally grown produce. I make this dish using cherry tomatoes as well as meaty plum tomatoes and both work well. If you were using plum tomatoes, I’d suggest peeling and seeding them first, but cherry tomatoes are so tender that the skins will melt into the sauce. I prefer crisp, peppery, baby arugula that I can leave whole to be tossed with the pasta just before eating, but if you can only find the larger cultivated arugula, I’d chop it coarsely before adding it to the pasta. We use Pecorino cheese much more commonly on pasta here in Umbria than we do Parmesan, but you can use either cheese depending on your preference.
Deborah Mele 2013
- 2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 2 Garlic Cloves, Peeled And Minced
- 2 Pounds Ripe Tomatoes, Cut In Half (See Notes Above)
- 1/4 Cup Fresh Torn Basil Leaves
- Salt & Pepper
- 1 Pound Spaghetti
- 6 Cups Fresh Washed Arugula
- 2 Ounces Dried Pecorino Cheese, Shaved
- In a wide, nonstick frying pan, or in a 3-quart saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat and add the garlic.
- Cook, stirring, just until fragrant, about 1 minute, then add the tomatoes and salt and bring to a simmer.
- Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, stirring often, until the tomatoes have softened and thickened, about 10 minutes.
- Just before the tomatoes have completed cooking, add the basil, and freshly ground pepper.
- Keep warm while you could the pasta.
- Cook the pasta until it is "al dente", drain, and toss with the tomato sauce.
- Divide into individual bowls and top each with a handful of fresh arugula and some shaved Pecorino cheese.
- Serve immediately.